Casa Grande, AZ. – FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz still hasn’t finalized his roster for the PDL season opener a month away. But what he had on Saturday was more than enough for FC Tucson to earn a 1-1 draw against NASL side FC Edmonton.
“We had a very strong starting line-up and I expected (the game) to be much more competitive this year,” said Head Coach Rick Schantz, who watch FC Edmonton dominate his team last season in a 6-1 loss. “After our last 3 matches against MLS opposition, I told the boys they were prepared for this game and they should be confident.”
FC Tucson lacked that confidence at the game’s opening, looking less crisp and energetic than their counterparts. But once the nerves settled, FC Tucson looked like the better team and they drew first blood.
At the 10 minute mark, starting midfielder Kevin King forced an FC Edmonton turnover deep in the defensive third. With the ball secured, King rushed toward the net before slotting a pass to forward Donny Toia. From 18 yards out Toia ripped a shot into the bottom right corner of the net to give FC Tucson a 1-0 lead.
Toia’s goal energized FC Edmonton, who began pressing hard and creating great opportunities for themselves. But FC Tucson’s back line held firm, especially starting goalkeeper Mike Selmo.
“Selmo did a great job of directing traffic in front of him,” Schantz said. “Kareem (Smith) and Conor (Spence) were solid as usual. So we did make it difficult for Edmonton.”
After halftime the game opened up and both teams had several opportunities to score. FC Edmonton was thwarted on its best chance by Selmo. During the pulse-raising series of events, Selmo punched a cross away from the net, only for the ball to come down to an FC Edmonton forward ready to shoot. But Selmo recovered in time to make a second save and keep the game 1-0.
Later, FC Tucson nearly made it 2-0 when a Milo’s Dragic header pinged off the crossbar. The goal would’ve been his third this preseason.
“That was a great play and almost a great goal,” Schantz said. “However, finishing is always the last thing to come for a team. But, I am very happy about the chances we created.”
FC Tucson’s bad luck continued. At the 70th minute defender Paul Allen, with an FC Edmonton forward hot on his tail, tried to clear a cross away from the net with a header. Instead he sent the ball into the net near the far post for an own goal. FC Tucson couldn’t find the go-ahead goal over the last 20 minutes and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
“The great thing about this game for us is that the players were frustrated that they didn’t win,” Schantz said. “We are getting used to playing high-caliber competition which will be very helpful this season in the PDL.”
Fans may get another chance to watch FC Tucson play before the PDL season begins. FC Tucson is tentatively scheduled to play Arizona Western at the Kino North training complex on Saturday, March 17, 2012. Nothing has been made official, but be sure to check out Facebook (
www.facebook.com/FCTUCSON) and Twitter (@FC_Tucson) for more details.
Midway through the first half, forward Donny Toia was forced to come out of the game after sustaining a thigh bruise. He was replaced by Milos Dragic. Toia’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious.